Friendly Gossip Saves One Community $6.5 Million

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It’s probably safe to assume that most of the people living on Molokai, a 260-square-mile isle in the state of Hawaii, know one another — at least that’s what Francois Rogers of the Blue Planet Foundation was counting on.

With the flick of a switch one Hawaiian island did just that, and you can too, by switching to CFLs. Photo: Flickr/rubberpaw

As Greentech Media reports, it was the chatter among friends that made the Go Green & Carbon Clean program a success, and “will save $6.5 million and eliminate the need to import 24,000 barrels of oil.”

About 7,400 neighbors swapped out their incandescent light bulbs for more efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), like the one pictured at right. With one simple act they ended up saving their small Hawaiian island millions – and you can too.

What’s most impressive about this is that it wouldn’t have happened if people didn’t work together and talk with one another. As Blue Planet’s Rogers was quoted, the program’s effectiveness was all courtesy of word-of-mouth. “They are tight and they talk to each other. We hardly advertised — maybe we put one ad in the local paper.”

As I can attest to (having lived in Hawaii), pretty much everything there is expensive, and on Molokai, that includes electricity. The article notes that electricity costs about 37 cents per kilowatt hour on Molokai; compare that to this US Energy Information Administration table, which notes that the average residential cost in the US in May 2010 was just under 12 cents per kilowatt hour.

Over the life of the more-efficient light bulb, each resident will save $200, and as the article notes, using that calculation over the three-month period that the light bulb swap took place, “This translates to a savings of 17 gigawatt-hours of electricity. What’s more, it prevents more than 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide from ever being emitted.”

When 36,000 ENERGY STAR CFL bulbs replaced the incandescent bulbs formerly being used, it was members of the community volunteering more than 200 hours of their time to help the program during its three-month engagement. As Rogers was quoted as saying, “The leg work was done by the community.” He sees this success as a potential role model for other communities.

While Blue Planet is targeted toward Hawaii residents, the ideas they have can likely work anywhere, as long as people in the community work together to make it happen. Are you up for the challenge? If so, check out their website for more information.

Story by Marc Hertz, originally published on Sept. 1, 2010 on Tonic

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